tv Debate Night in America CNN October 3, 2012 4:00pm-6:00pm PDT
>> we were on the grip of a failed economic theory and this decision better be about what kind of economic theory you want. >> i got to answer that. say we're going alone, you cannot lead. >> i don't how we ended up invading a country that had nothing to do with 9/11. >> this is cnn. -- captions by vitac -- www.vitac.com we're counting down to the most important moment yet in this, the 2012 campaign. >> president barack obama and governor mitt romney preparing to face off in their first presidential debate. >> and here in denver, the candidates know what happens on this debate stage certainly could help sway the election. >> a president struggling with a slow economy, hoping to boost confidence in his leadership. >> i'm not fighting to create democratic and republican jobs,
i'm fighting to create american jobs. >> a challenger fighting in the poll es trying to connect with average americans. after months of attacks on the campaign trial, it's time for these candidates to confront each other face to face. >> we will win this election, we will finish what we started! >> i will do better than this president has done for the american people! >> in colorado tonight, barack obama and mitt romney in their first presidential date. >> these debates are an opportunity for each of us to describe the pathway forward. >> what i'm most concerned about is having a serious discussion about what we need to do to keep the country growing. >> two men with different vision on issues voters care about most. both of them. >> we certainly can't go far with a leader who writes off half a nation. >> he said he can't change washington from the inside. he can only change it from outside.
well, we're going to give him that chance in november. >> watch cnn's coverage, side by side on big problems. will this night change an election that's just a month away? >> i need your help on november 6th. >> you believe in me. i'm asking for your vote. >> the nation is watching, voters want answers and america's future is up for debate. this is university of denver, where the presidential candidates could go a long way tonight toward winning or losing the white house. president barack obama and governor mitt romney, they are both getting ready to take the stage and compete face to face for the first time in this campaign. we want to welcome our viewers in the united states and around
the world to debate night in america. i'm wolf blitzer. there's enormous pressure on president obama and governor romney right now. the biggest challenges facing the country are on the line as well as the outcome of this election. even the candidates' wives are feeling the stress. we have cnn exclusives tonight. brand new interviews with michelle obama and ann romney. the first lady shared her debate anxiety with our jessica yellin. >> i get so nervous at these debates and you know, i'm like one of those parents watching their kid on the balance beam. just standing there just trying not to, you know, have any expression at all. >> ann romney revealed to our gloria borger that she helped reassure her husband during past debates. >> and almost after every answer that he gives, he'll find me in the audience to see, was that good? was that okay? >> we're going to have much more
on those interviews with michelle and ann as we count down to the debate. we're mobilizing the full resources of cnn for our coverage tonight. let's bring in and erson cooper. >> it's going to be an exciting night and during the debate, we are going to clock the candidates to see how much time they get to talk overall about each issue and we'll get immediate reaction to what president obama and governor romney are are saying from a focus group of undecided colorado voters. their responses will look like that on screen. you see them at the bottom of your screen going up and down. they need to impress undecided voters most. john king is at the magic wall for us. zero in on the stage where the candidates hope to gain grnd. >> the burden you would have to say is higher on mitt romney trailing in the race for the 270 electoral votes. they're debating in colorado, a dead heat. but the president has taken the edge in wisconsin, ohio, virginia and in florida.
governor romney e needs to change this dynamic around because if the president were to keep two of those four, he would be almost impossible to stop. >> thank you. let's go to the debate hall where candy crowley is standing by. she's one of the moderators in the 2012 presidential debate series. the focus tonight on domestic issues, especially the economy. >> absolutely. this is parched into six, 15-minute segsegments, if you w. if first three, health care, then government. very broad suggests which would include any number of questions. each candidates gets two minutes to answer and then the rest of the time will be in discussing it. i want to bring in jessica yellin now. i know you've got an exclusive look at how the president's preparing for these debates. >> that's right.
i'm told that right now, president obama is with the first lady. that's after he did a little bit of debate prep in his hotel room and now, the two are relaxing at the hotel. all of this came after the president had 72 intense hours of virtual lockdown at a debate prep camp in nevada. cnn has learned president obama has been squeezing in his study time for this debate, reading late at night at the residences, working on air force one and cramming with advisers at the white house, but aides say in washington, it's never a top priority. to give him total debate emersion, the president's team took him to the nevada desert. >> basically, they're keeping me indoors all the time. it's a drag. they're making me do my homework. >> his study hall was a sparse ballroom inside this hotel. no snacks, just bottled water. he got one afternoon break. tuesday, it was a field trip to
the hoover dam. then back to debate prep late into the night. inside the room, playing the role of moderator, drill master, debate expert and former biden chief of staff, ron klein. he was immortalized by kevin spacey in the movie "recount." standing in for mitt romney, a man who was in the hot seat in his own run against president bush. senator john kerry. >> i made a mistake in how i talk about the war. but the president made a mistake in invading iraq. which is worse? >> he told cnn the president has been out of practice. >> last debate president had was against john mccain. and he's had no debates in between and it just makes a difference. i can tell you from my own experience.
>> back in 2008, the president had plenty of debate practice. sometimes, it showed. >> straight talk express lost a wheel on that one. >> sometimes, it didn't. >> he's very likable. i, i agree with that. i don't think i'm that bad. >> you're likable enough. >> thanks. >> that was a smackdown so unlike his nice guy image, the obama team still considers it one of the standout errors of 2008. tonight, his team says, the president will push mitt romney on specifics. >> he come to this debate with a heavy burden to finally put out those details of where he wants to take this country. >> a message his sparring opponent echoes. >> and about substance? >> sure. want to know. i want to know what's going on. >> policy. >> people are interested in the situation there in america, the challenges we face. sure. >> candy, today happens to be an
important day for president obama for another reason. it is the obama's 20th wedding anniversary. no doubt they are having a dding moment in the hotel saying hello to each other for the first time today. she wished him a happy anniversary from the campaign trail and i'm told that he will be taking her out to celebrate properly next saturday. candy? >> i think people look at this piece and say wait a second, the president has been steeped in the issues for four years. no one should know them any b better for four years. he's an eloquent speaker. what are they worried about? so, tell me what they're worried about. >> every sitting president goes through this. bill clinton did it. george bush. the idea is to take a deep dive into one's own policies and also look at your opponent's policies and make sure that you're deeply
well read into all the the specifics. and so, nobody can be well versed in everything that you've done. i certainly don't remember what i did last year and i bet you don't either. every moment of it, so that's part of the goal. another part of it is to come up with those quote zingers or moments, as much they say they're thot doing it, you know they did it. that's part of it. to come armed with some ready lines to throw out when you need them. >> i'm not even sure i know what i did last week, so i get it. thanks so much. jessica yellin. we want to go back now to anderson cooper a anderson cooper in the cnn election center. >> candy, i can't remember what i did yesterday. let's talk about who has the edge going into tonight. >> anderson, a year ago, you would have said romney had the edge. obama has to defend his lousy
jobs record. he's running better campaign, so he comes in with an advantage. he's still ahead. structure of the race favors him. and importantly, because of romney's mistakes in the campaign, romney has to do a lot more in this debate than the president does. romney has to do for the first time, he's got to lay out his plan for the next four years. he has not down that so far. he is to hit the president and get his likability numbers up. that's a lot to do in one debate. >> senior romney advisers like likability and they say not quite. what it's really about is talking to what they call the 3 ds. dissatisfied, disappointed and disenchanted obama voters. it's about convincing them that over the next four years, you
will do a better job to improve their lives. what they're looking for is those, that narrower and narrower slice of swing voters. i mean, he's got a double job to do. >> he had a convention speech and he wasn't able to do it. >> that's why he's got to do it tonight. so but he's got a double job. he's got to talk to those swing voters who are disaffected about president obama, but then make sure his base turns out and he's got to get the base enthusiastic. now, what the base wants and those swing voters want maybe two different things. >> but how many people are still undecided? >> this many. >> but there are still people who are persuadable. >> have debates really persuaded them. >> john kerry, going into that first debate, was seven points behind. after that first debate, he was only two points behind. now, we know he ended up losing
because president bush came back and did a better job in the second debate. but it did narrow the gap for john kerry. >> we're learning that mitt romney's debate preparations get kind of mean at times. we're going to hear from michelle obama and ann romney on their debate advice. one of them gets moesh. we'll be right back. ♪
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the presidential candidates will soon be taking that stage. president obama and mitt romney have been holed up for days now to practice. dana bash has been working her sources. you've been hearing in terms of the romney debate preparations, they've gotten intense. >> they have. in fact, i was told they had their high volta mock debate prep sessions until just two days ago. for the past couple of days, they took it down several notches. it was all about fine tuning in a more relaxed setting in romney's hotel room. romney's so tag, tweeted a picture of what he called the brain trust meeting. a source tells us they worked hard on trimming his answers on critical issues so he would come through with a quote, single sentence to capture something important. cnn has learned that mitt romney's mock debate sessions are two and a half hours long. an hour more than the actual
debate will last. the reason, romney sources say debate prep is so intense, his aides carve out breaks for him to decompress with his family. moderator jim lehrer is with long time adviser, peter flaherty. at the opposing podium, president obama is played by rob portman, who spoke exclusively to cnn. >> you have to be a little mean sometimes and try to get under their skin. >> portman is the republican's go to guy. in 2000, he played al gore and joe lieberman. in 2004, john edwards and in 2008, he was so in character as barack obama, he really upset john mccain's wife. you have to tell me the story about cindy mccain. >> she was very good about attending debate preps and being with john. at one point, literally walked out. we knew she was walking out on purpose because i was going after her husband.
>> it was too much for her to take. >> she still doesn't like me to this day. >> romney's been getting that portman treatment for more than a month. >> after the hour and a half is over, i want to kick him out of the room. >> sources close to romney say this is his danger zone. his tendency to get defensive, which produces gaffes. remember this? >> it was true then. >> no, rick, i'll tell you what -- 10,000 bucks? >> reviewed romney performances with his debate coach during the gop primaries. is mitt romney coachable when it comes to that? >> absolutely. absolutely. he was, he's a great student of political debate. he works verhard at it. >> brett o'donnell says it is proo romney is a quick study. >> all i want to do is allow the grandmother to be here legally with some rights.
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welcome back to our continuing coverage. we had a technical problem. want to show you dana bash's piece. take a look. >> cnn has learned that mitt romney's mock debate sessions are two and a half hours long. and hour more than the actual debate will last. the reason, romney sources say debate prep is so intense, his
aides carve out breaks for him to decompress with his family. inside his boot camp, moderator jim lehrer is played by peter flaherty. at the opposing podium, president obama is played by gop senator, rob portman, who spoke exclusively to cnn. >> you have to be a little mean sometimes and try to get under their skin. >> portman is the republican's go to guy. in 2000, he played al gore and joe lieberman. in 2004, john edwards. and in 2008, he was so in character as barack obama he really upset john mccain's wife. you have to tell me the story about cindy mccain running out of the room crying. >> she was very good about attending preps and being with john. at one point, literally walked out. i mean, we knew she was walking out on purpose because i was going after her husband. >> it was too much for her to take. >> she still doesn't like me to this day. >> romney's been getting that
portman treatment for more than a month. >> after the you know hour and a half or so is over, i want to kick him out of the room. >> sources close to romney say this is his danger zone. his tendency to get defensive. which produces gaffes. remember this? >> it was true then. >> no, no -- >> it's true now. >> rick, i'll tell you what. 10,000 bucks? >> reviewed performances with his coach during the gop primaries. is mitt romney coachable when it comes to that? >> absolutely. absolutely. he was, he's a great student of political debate. he works very hard at it. >> brett o'donnell says cnn's jacksonville debate is proof romney is a quick study. >> what i want to do is allow the grandmother to be here legally with some rights. >> our problem is not 11 million grandmothers. our problem is, all right --
>> why was that so powerful? >> because it took gingrich's argument and showed the absurdity in one line. >> cnn is told there is a ritual to romney's debate prep. after each session, his inner circle, beth myers, stewart stevens and ed gles pe, spend hours going over his answers with him so see how how can improve. >> you have to figure out how they're likely to expres themselves with the body language is going to be like. >> portman learned that in 2000. >> he got kind of physical. sort of stood up, al gore got right in his face and so in the debate preps with governor george w. bush in 2000, i did that. and governor bush's reaction was of course, he's not going to do that. that's ridiculous.
>> but can he get things done? >> that's exactly what gore did. >> and i believe i can. >> did he practice a nod or did you just -- warn him he was going to physically approach him. >> i think the point is that governor bush was ready for it and that was not a high point for vice president gore. >> that's fascinating, that they knew gore was going to try to sort of physically approach him. >> that's right. as senator portman said, it's because he spent so much time studying al gore at the time, studying his debates with bill bradley's from the primaries that year. really invaded his personal space. >> it's all about research. we know how governor romney has been preparing the las couple of days. how does he prepare in these last hours or last day or so? >> we're told tonight he went to the cheesecake factory with his sons and some grandchildren. his aides say in the hours before what is critical for him is to get into the green room,
to be with his family and friends and have levity, relaxation. that is the most important thing to get psychologically ready, to just be relaxed. >> so, he doesn't need to be by himself. he likes to be around people. >> no. they say it's important for him to be around his family, but interesting, before his debates, he had a moment alone with his wife, ann, and they prayed before he went on stage. >> when the presidential candidates take the stage soon for their first debate, michelle obama has admitted she will be nervous. we have a cnn exclusive. new interviews with the candidate's wooifs with the pressure of preparing for debates. we hear from the first lady in a moment, but first, gloria borger asked ann romney about her husband's debate. >> so, how does he prepare for what is essentially the most important job interview of his life? >> his whole life has been a preparation, an a experience of
working in very troubled situations, turning around troubled situations. his whole life has been the private economy. he understands job creation. he understands difficulties of economic decline. he understands what's missing in an economic recovery, so for those things, you cannot teach him. it's in his bones. but for current events, i know he's got briefing books. he's very thorough. he has to understand a situation and i see sometimes and i haven't watched a lot of this debate prep, but in previous debate preps, where he is the devil's advocate, even for his staff that's giving him information. he's like prove this to me or i need to understand these numbers. t he makes everyone around him be as on their toes and as sharp and as prepared as anything. >> we're going to have more of gloria's interview at the top of
this hour. it really is interesting how they are such a team and on a debate like, debate night like tonight, it's really both of them who have their game. >> ann romney it seems to me, has become more and more of an important surrogate. i think she's taking it more and more personal, that every time mitt romney is criticized, she steps out to defend his character. what she was talking about in that piece in terms of debate prep, she really knows him very well because dana was talking about it in her piece, which is mitt romney has no problem with looking at all of the information, taking it all in. it's on a spread sheet in front of him. the problem they have with mitt romney is that he does do all of his homework and the problem he is is that he's got to learn to win know it down to digestible bites for the american public so he can point to these three ways
he would change energy policies. >> all along, people are saying we haven't hearda lot of specifics in this campaign and they're hoping in the debates to get more specifics, so you have to balance the desire for spechks for putting meat on the bones. >> anderson, problem with this kind of approach is narrowing down and getting in a little box is that the debates by nature should be more conversational. this is a really conversation with people at home. that's particularly true of the format we're seeing tonight. what you found say with a matter debater like reagan, he would get two or three facts into an answer, then build a conversation around the facts and that appealed to people more. they don't want to hear a rat a tat tat. >> that's what the debates have become. >> that's what mitt romney is used to. for the people who say he's had an advantage because he's done 20 debates, he's done 20 debates with lots of people on the stage.
it's totally different. >> let's take a look, we got another interview with michelle obama. now to wolf. >> thanks very much. first lady of the united states and the anxiety she feels during these debates. here's part of her exclusive interview with our jessica yellin. >> i get so nervous at these debates and you know, i'm like one of those parents watching their kid on the balance beam. you just standing there, trying not to you know, have any expression at all. >> i've read that before a speech, you tell him have fun. but it's a little different because it's more of a competition or like a game of one-on-one. what's your motivational advice to him? >> he doesn't need much advice. he's been doing this for quite some time, so he knows the job. he's a very good debater. so i do tell him to have fun and
relax and just be himself because the truth is, if he's the barack obama the country has come to know and trust, he's going to do a great job. >> now, some of his aides have said one of his challenges is to keep the answers short and i know that you have said that you critique his speeches afterwards. >> oh, no, i don't, actually. i give him, you know, i give him my positive reenforcement. >> only positive? >> generally. because he's a great speaker. he's good at this. >> so, do you think he has any challenges going in sfl. >> you know, i haven't really, i'd have to think about that afterwards, but going into it, i think he's going to do his best. >> jessica's joining us now from denver. we're going to have more of this interview in the next hour, but have they seen each other day, the president and first lady yet? >> you know, they just met up. the the president and first lady. were in nevada today, both in the same state, but did not see each other even though it's
their 20th wedding anniversary. she had to wish him happy anniversary from a campaign stop in reno. >> obviously, we got a little technical issue -- going on. jessica, stand by for a moment. the full interview coming up right at the top of the hour. i'm going to, i know our viewers are going to want to see that and hear it. we have exclusive interviews with both the first lady and ann romney. coming up at the top of the hour, but let's go to candy now. where will the wives be actually sitting in this debate hall? think we just lost candy. unfortunately. candy, we'll get her back. we're having some technical issues. we're watching what's going on. many of us will be watching to be the tonight for one standout moment that could help change the outcome of the election. john king is at the magic wall looking at some of the most powerful debates these changes
have had over the years and they've been pretty powerful. >> the the question is, will there be a game changing moment tonight? one, two, more? let's go back in history and take a look. start with 1980. watch the carter rean race play out in the polls here. this was their one and only debate. reagan had come from behind and moved ahead of carter. the question was, was he up to it? a lot of people think this was the moment. >> are you better off than you were four years ago? is it easier for you to go and buy things in the stores than it was four years ago? is there mor or less unemployment in the country than there was four years ago? is america as respected throughout the world as it was? >> reagan there sealing the deal in his debate against jimmy carter. now forward in time to 1992. the three-way race. bush, clinton and perot. in the second debate, george w.
bush is behind. he needs to have a game changing moment. instead -- there was this moment when people thought he was disinterested and couldn't connect. >> yes, how has the national debt personally affected each of your lives and if it hasn't, how can you honestly find a cure for the economic problems of the common people if you have no experience in what's ailing them? >> i think the national debt affects everybody. obviously, it has a lot to do with interest rates. it has -- >> she's saying you personally. >> on a personal basis. how has it affected you? >> has it affected you personally? >> i'm sure it is. i love my grandchildren. i want to think they're going to be able to afford an education. >> president bush there unable to connect with that voter looking at the watch, a lot of people at home found that disrespectful. to 2000, look at the gyrations
in this race. this was right after the republican convention. al gore gets back in the hunt after his convention. they come to the first debate with gore ahead. he rolled his eyes. gore comes down. in the second debate, rob portman filling in prepared george w. bush for this. >> that's what the question in this campaign is about. it's not only what's your philosophy and position on issues, but can you get things done? and i believe i can. >> what about the norwood bill? >> priceless moment there from bush. heent on, but built his lead after that debate and kept it until the end. more recently in 2004, george w. bush running for re-election again, this was a very competitive, close race. after the first debate, bush came down. a lot of people said he was shaky. didn't answer a question about the iraq war very well, but then he stabilized the race a little bit and in the end, almost tied coming in, bush starts to pull
away, but a strong last debate where he made a connection on faith. >> very personal. i pray for strength, i pray for wisdom, for our troops in harm's way, for my family, my little girls. prayer in religion sustained me. i receive calmness in the storms of the presidency. >> he went on then from that debate to keep his lead and to win that election. that was a third debate recovery, if you will, what we're going look for tonight to see if either candidate could have a game changing break the race open moment. >> let's talk about some of those moments with our cnn contributors, many of whom have helped with experience. you were talk about how critical those moments are and we know what some of those may be tonight. >> one moment we should all look for is when we see barack
obama's campaign strategy come to life. he's been saying mitt romney, you've got nothing new. you're george bush. you want to go back to the policies that got us into this mess. mitt romney's going to be tested. either he says no, let me tell you how this country's going to move forward. neither of these candidates by the way owns an important word in an economy in a recession. growth. somebody can walk out of this debate saying i'm the candidate of growth. that would be tremendous. could change everything. >> james? >> there's a third man in the ring and i think this is his 13th presidential debate and what i think that he's going to try to do is get these guys talking to each other. you notice some sort of ak romony about the honesty and i kind of hope that's what we see. i'd like to see a little scuffle between the two of them and defend some of the things they've said and have jim lehrer be able to do that. i give you one more thing.
you got to remember what john was about the contest. it's not who you think is the prettiest girl, it's who you think the judges think is the prettiest girl. when you're looking at this, we've got to think about how the public is reacting because we're partisan political people. what i'm going to be trying to do tonight is seeing how i think the public would react to the scenes. >> do candidates like talking to one another or try to resist it? >> they don't like it too much because things can go wrong. the public likes it because you're sitting there complaining about this guy, saying these things about him, well, he's right here, why don't you tell him what you exactly think. i think the public thinks that's a very fair thing to do. >> but argumenting over who's telling the truth, they can point fingers on a number of issues. do people kind of check out over
that? >> it depends on how you do it. >> i think what voters are looking for is the character of the two people. a lot of time, they'll be arguing about stuff. the voters don't know the difference. they're trying to figure out who do i trust. who do i believe? it's very easy, you know, you're talking to your friend in the corner, then the guy you're talking about walks up. how do you respond? that's going to be a -- >> but i also think we've been talking a lot about the fact that romney needs to provide specifics and i agree, but frankly, i think president obama needs to provide specific. this is a man who has been saying for four years, it's going to get better. it hasn't. his plan is taxing millionaires and billionaires. his plan to improve education is to invest in the department of education, so the president also has to provide some real specifics here about what is going to be different from his
last administration. >> one of the things that's going to be important for this president as he comes out there, in this twitter cycle, people have short memories. where were we four years ago? the country was afraid we would be in a great depression. this guy volunteers to be captain of the titanic after it hit the iceberg and we're still floating. that's a part of the context he has to remind the american people of. >> but i must say, that's a flawed premise. it's a flawed premise. >> we got hours to do that. i got to take a break. you say not specifics. >> i think we lie. we tell pollsters we want specifics. mitt romney has a 59-point plan. we don't want specifics. we want a vision. tell us what big thing you're going to do to change. >> a reality check team is warming up and we've caught one of the cans ming a misleading claim. first, this debate flashback.
>> thank you president ford and governor carter. in 1976, when ford was running against carter, he was asked a question about domination of eastern europe. >> there is no soviet domination of eastern europe and there never will be. >> he answered it incomprehensibly, not fully understanding the question. and unfortunately, what happened for ford this thing just got parodied, talked about and became a huge event. [ woman ] it's 32 minutes to go time, and the candidate's speech is in pieces all over the district.
the writer's desktop and the coordinator's phone are working on a joke with local color. the secure cloud just received a revised intro from the strategist's tablet. and while i make my way into the venue, the candidate will be rehearsing off of his phone. [ candidate ] and thanks to every young face i see out there. [ woman ] his phone is one of his biggest supporters. [ female announcer ] with cisco at the center... working together has never worked so well. [ female announcer ] with cisco at the center... energy is being produced to power our lives. while energy development comes with some risk, north america's natural gas producers are committed to safely and responsibly providing generations of cleaner-burning energy for our country, drilling thousands of feet below fresh water sources within self-contained well systems. and, using state-of-the-art monitoring technologies, rigorous practices help ensure our operations are safe and clean for our communities and the environment. we're america's natural gas. a short word that's a tall order. up your game.
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crowd is beginning to walk into the debate hall at the university of denver. they are getting ready for this first of three presidential debates. there will be one vice presidential debate as well. the pressure clearly on both of these candidates. one of the interesting things we're watching tonight will be will the candidates get the same amount of time to talk during the debate and if not, what will that affect, how will that affect the voter's opinions? look at what happened four years ago. watch this. barack obama spoke more than two minutes longer than john mccain during the second debate in 2008. and during the third debate, there was an even bigger gaffe. obama talked a full five minutes longer than mcain. one major reason for the extra time obama received was the rebuttal time for mccain's numerous attacks. we're going to see what tonight's exchange brings since the moderator promised more
interaction between these two candidates. candy's back at the debate hall in denver watching all of this unfold. it's getting crowded. i understand behind you. >> it is. think wedding right now. you're beginning to see folks come into this hall and on one side, will be the obama campaign supporters and on the other side will be the romney campaign supporters or at least in those front rows. we see people like nancy pelosi is here et cetera. you'll see the wives sort of right in the podiums are tilted. so, president obama will actually, he'll be this way. president obama will be looking at his wife who's sitting on this side and mitt romney will be looking at his wife sitting on the republican side, so they have the wives right, that's the first person they're going to see when they look down in those front row seats. there are also seats behind me, i'm sorry, in front of me, but
behind you, that are beginning to fill in. but there's another part to this entire scene. that is something very familiar, the spin room. we don't even pretend that either side is telling us what they really think about the debates. jim acosta is there and jim, obviously, the point here is to kind of fill that room post debate with a lot of big names that reporters can talk to to get their take. >> that's right. one of the misconceptions out there is that all of us in the media are watching this debate from inside the hall. there's not enough space, so they put us in this giant spin room. as we were standing inside the university of denver, photographe photographers perched atop, but just about every major news organization is positioned around the spin room. there are members of the romney
traveling press corp. my colleague jessica yellin is off to my right. the romney campaign along with the rnc has set up a booth here, candy. this is where they'll be live s different news organizations, so you will see some of that later on tonight and to give you some housekeeping as to what's happening right now, candy, i can tell you according to the press pool reporters traveling with mitt romney, the gop contender and his we've, ann romney, are en route to the university of colorado. they just wrapped up dinner at the cheesecake factory. i talked to romney campaign officials, talk about zingers and game-changing moments. we've been told don't expect romney to go for a knockout pump. th punch. they might try to play it a little more cautious. that could be a head fake. back to you. >> that wide shot gave us an idea of how big that room is. i want to bring jessica in.
i'm assuming that there is an equal and opposite place that they will bring the obama people in toto talk about how well he did. >> yes, candy, just as you predicted, and i'm also standing with a lot of the gathered media here, and this is where members of the press sit and where the white house traveling press comes in. and if it's a little sparse, it's because people are still going out to get dinner right now they will all sit and watch on the monitors behind me, behind each of the university of denver signs. a tv monitor. right over there way is where the obama team surrogates gather, and their area is curtained off, but i can tell you, they are in there doing television interviews, and i'm already hearing they do not plan for the president to come here and attack mitt romney, but as you've heard all along, lay out facts and drill for specifics
and the word right now is he is relaxing and taking it easy. candy. >> thanks, jessica yellin, chief white house correspondent. anderson there, is prespin, post spin. you won't lack for opinion. >> i love that they call it the spin room. everyone is lying, everyone is making up spin. they don't call it the truth room. candy, we'll come back to you. undecided voters in colorado are ready to tell us if they are closer to making up their minds. and michelle obama explains why the timing of the debate could be better. we'll be right back. there are a lot of warning lights and sounds vying for your attention. so we invented a warning
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this is the motorcade carrying mitt romney, bringing mitt romney to the university of denver, to the debate hall where they are getting ready for the debate. you can see the motorcade aing, you see supporters i guess of both candidates outside, getting ready for this. the first presidential debate of this season. critically, critically important as this race appears to be narrowing in several of those key battleground states. mitt romney arriving at the debate hall. we're watching -- we're getting closer and closser to the first debate between president obama and governor romney. people across the country are be watching, but the candidates are most concerned about swaying those battleground state voters who haven't yet made up their minds. cnn has put together a focus group of undecided voters from colorado, the state that's hosting the debate tonight. we're going to be watching their reaction to the candidates in real time. erin burnett is with the focus
group over at the university of denver. joining us now. tell us about this focus group. >> wolf, these are people -- look, anyone who is watching, busy, taking time out of your lives to watch this. imagine taking the time to sit in person and dial test this, every word that these candidates say. these are people who are passionate about voting but undecided. a small group of americans very important to sdigd the election. wolf says they are undecided. the other thing about this group of people that matters, how many of you are going to vote? every single one. every single one and every voter, we have 39 people in this rote, 21 women, 18 men. let me tell you about them. they are a cross section, teachers in here, people who are unemployed and looking for work, we have entrepreneurs and small business owners, people who work in health care, retired people. every single issue that will come up tonight in this debate, focused on the economy, health care, domestic policy, is something that people in this room care passionately about.
they will sit here, listen to the debate. viewers by now may be familiar with the dial. on a scale from 0 to 100, they will score everything you here. there will be moments when mitt romney does terribly and terribly well. same with barack obama they will score it and we'll see if those are the moments that move how they will vote. as we said," this room is undecided. will they be undecided at the end of the debate? that's the big question. you saw john king say, can a debate be a game changer? if it, i think we'll see it in this room. we'll sit with the 39 people, thank you for taking the time out of your night to do this, and that's what we'll do as we watch the debate. >> we'll see the reaction during the entire 90-minute debate. thank you very, very much. we also measured the reaction of undecided voters to the presidential debates four years ago, and look at this. these colored lines show us how
they respond to the green line represents men, and the yellow women, and you can see the ups and downs, across the night we'll tally them as we go along. totals from the second debate back in 2008. obama had the most high points that night. 16 in all. twice as many as mccain. obama with the fewest lows. two compared to mccain's nine. undecided voters giving obama a clear edge. we'll see who has that edge later tonight. and cnn's coverage of debate night in america continues right now. -- captions by vitac -- www.vitac.com tonight, mitt romney and barack obama face off in their first debate in issues that hit close to home. >> when it comes to the economy, the president has thrown in the white flag of surrender. >> we have a lot more folks who have to get back to work. but the question is, whose plan is better for you? >> the president, still trying
to deliver on his first-term promises. >> change will take more than one term or one president or one party. >> the challenger, still trying to prove to skeptics he can change the game. >> polls go all over the place, one thing i do know this is a very tight race. >> both candidates get plenty of advice, even from their wives. this hour, cnn exclusive, new interviews with ann romney and michelle obama. >> he's a very good debater, so i do tell him to have fun, relax, be himself. >> mitt has to know. he has to feel what he has got to say, when he's got to say it. >> now, cnn's coverage of mitt romney and barack obama, side by side, on big problems and tough choices, will this night change an election that's just a month away? >> i need your help on november 6th. >> if you still believe in me, i'm asking for your vote. >> the nation is watching, voters want answers and
america's future is up for debate. this is the university of denver, the back drop for the most important night in the presidential race so far. president obama and governor romney, they will appear together in this hall, very soon, and go head to head on the issues for the first time. we want to welcome our viewers in the united states and around the world to debate night in america. i'm wolf blitzer. every word the candidates say tonight and any mistake they may make could affect the outcome of this election. in just a moment, their wives speak out about the stress, the enormous stress of these debates. stand by for an exclusive, interviews with michelle obama
and ann romney. we're devoted to bringing you comprehensive coverage. let's bring in anderson cooper. >> wolf, i want to show viewers who may just be joining us what they'll see during the debate. we'll clock the candidates to see how much time they discuss particular issues and how much talk time they get overall. focus group of undecided colorado voters will react to what voters say in real time. their responses will look like this on the screen. you see the squiggly lines. let's bring in john king at the magic wall. >> this debate, nationally televised. the gold states, swing states. one, colorado. colorado, classic swing states in american politics. george w. bush carried it twice before, bill clinton in '92. as they speak to the nation tonight, they will compete for
this state in this election. the president won it last time by winning big in the denver suburbs. romney has to pitch to the evangelicals and get more support from suburban women. wolf. >> our chief political correspondent candy crowley. the first woman tapped to moderate a debate in 20 years, watching very closely. set the scene. >> it is getting packed in here, wolf. and i have to tell you, it's freezing. that's one of the things candidates decide ahead of time. how cold will it be in the theater, and i can tell you, they both must have wanted it pretty cold. in the front rows on the one side of the romney campaign, supporters, chief among them, mrs. romney, on the other side, obama supporters and campaign, chief among them first lady michelle obama. there are a lot of other folks watching everything these men do. not just this evening when they begin to talk.
but what they've been doing leading into this. i want t bring in chief white house correspondent jessica yellin. you wonder in those final moments before they take the stage, what are they doing? what do you know about the president's activities? >> candy, the president is right now headed over to this debate site, and i can tell you he had an easier day of debate prep than he has the last few days. he began with an exercise waking up and doing some exercise and then having some lighter prep with his advisers before he got on a plane, flew here to walk through the debate hall. went to his hotel, did some prep in his hotel room, and then he took some down time and finally saw the first lady. it is their 20th wedding anniversary tonight. they met up with brief time together and then they relaxed, had down time a little bit and he's headed over here finally to get ready for the big night. now i'll send it over to my
colleague, jim acosta, with more detail on what mitt romney has been up to in the final hours. jim. >> that's right, jessica. mitt romney has arrived at the debate hall with his wife, ann romney. they wrapped up dinner a few moments ago and started heading this way. the romney campaign tweeted out a picture of mitt and ann romney holding hands in the motorcade. the romney campaign not missing a beat in getting out an image of one of the campaign's best assets, mrs. romney. one other thing, i can report, i talked to a campaign source a few moments ago about the debate prep. pretty light today, really enjoying some down time with romney's grandkids, getting ready before the big night coming up an hour from now. candy. >> thanks, jim. before i toss it back to you, anderson, i'm reminded of a quick conversation i had with george bush when he first ran for president in the year 2000. had a reputation of being a really mean guy. and i asked him, and he said i
got that reputation when i was defending my dad during his re-election campaign. so much easier to run than to watch someone love run. i think the pressure tonight certainly on these two men who want to be president, but there might be more pressure on first lady michelle obama and, of course, ann romney as they watch their husbands tonight. anderson. >> really interesting. we're hearing from both women tonight. cnn exclusive, brand new interviews with michelle obama and ann romney, opening up about debate preparations and the pressure on their husbands, first, interview with ann romney, her family calls her the mitt stabilizers, gloria borgeer asked her if that is the role she's playing leading up to tonight's debate. >> absolutely. i feel like that's my role for mitt when he's going through a difficult time. i'm there for him. there for each other emotionally all the time. in the last 20 debates that we did in the primary, i felt that was my most important role. >> how do you do that? >> you know, it's a cute thing he does.
almost after every answer, he finds me in the audience, the first thing he does on stage, he takes off his watch and puts it on the podium, but then he writes dad on a piece of paper. and that's amazing, because he loves his dad, respects his dad, doesn't want to do anything that would not make his father proud. and just a reminder that yes, i'm here, but, dad, i love and respect who you are, what you've taught me, what kind of a person you are, and i'm going to honor that. and so i love the fact that mitt does that he writes that, and he looks in the audience and finds me, has to find where i am. he needs just that connection, and almost after every answer that he gives, he'll find me in the audience to see, was that good? was that okay? >> what do you do? >> good, good. >> what if you don't like.
>> oh, oh. no, i don't -- >> oh! i don't do any of that. >> he's on stage. >> he's on stage. there's an emotional connection happening between the two of us during the debate itself. >> so how does he prepare for what is essentially the most important job interview of his life? this debate? >> his whole life has been a preparation for him being where he is right now. his whole life has been an experience of working in very troubled situations, turning around troubled situations. his whole life has been in the private economy. he understands job creation. understands the difficulties of an economic decline. he understand what is missing in an economic recovery. for those kinds of things, you cannot teach him, it's in his bones. but for current events, everything else like that, he has briefing books, i know he's studying. the guy does his homework. really does his homework. very thorough. has to understand the situation. and i see sometimes, and i
haven't watched a lot of this debate prep, but in previous debate preps, where he's the devil's advocate, even for his staff giving him information, and he's like proof thve this t i need to understand these numbers. hemakes everyone around him be on their toes and be as sharp and prepared as anything. >> doesn't he have to take on the president aggressively in this debate? >> you know what? i'm not the one that's going to weigh in with mitt on that at all. mitt has to know. he has to feel what he's got to say, when he's got to say it. he's got to listen to his own instincts, and that's what i'll tell him. trust your own gut. >> so some republicans are saying this is make or break for mitt romney. that's right, isn't it? >> i don't think -- you know, every -- you know, everything is make or break for us for the last year and a half. we're getting kind of used to this. every primary, this is make or
break for mitt. and the next one this is make or break for mitt. we're getting used to the fact that the media puts a very high bar for us. what i want the american people to understand is that this is a man who has prepared his entire life to be able to bring this country to an economic recovery. >> is there one thing he needs to do to break through? >> you know, i would love it personally just for people to tune in and just watch. let's just see him. see who he is. let's just see how he thinks and what he feels. for me, that's the important thing that must come through. >> his problem during this campaign if you look at the polls, is that a significant majority of people don't believe he understand their problems. and when he talked about the 47%, that only seemed to compound that problem. how can he change that perception at this debate?
>> i think the first and most important thing is to recognize that's not an accurate perception, that he's obviously running for 100% of the americans, that there are many people that need mitt's help right now, and i think, you know, for folks to understand this is a guy that does care, that does understand, that's why we're running. in my rally just out there, i told a few personal stories about mitt and about how he's not a person that talks, he's a person that goes and does. that's the function i would like people to understand about mitt. >> how can you show that to voters? >> we're going to try. we keep trying. it's difficult when the opposition wants to put you in a narrative that's not flattering. it's a battle to be able to do that. i appreciate to have the opportunity to talk about the character of the man. you know, he's just a good, decent human being. >> you recently responded to campaign critics. you said stop it.
this is hard. you want to try it? get in the ring. you seem really upset by that. >> you know, there's always days where you just go, you know, everyone is a correritic, and yo if you really understood what you were up against when you run for president, it's a very difficult thing, and as you know, gloria, i said last time i would never do this again, and that's part of the reason. it's really hard for a family member, a person that loves this person you seeing in through these difficulties and knowing how tough it is on that person you love. for me, it comes out of a compassion for mitt and a compassion and passion for how important this election is. and how important that people really figure out what they should be thinking about when they go in that voting booth. they should be thinking about, have the past four years been good? do you expect the economy to get better under this president? or do you think it will just go on as it has been, just dribbling along?
it doesn't need to be that way. i want people to know if they vote for mitt, they'll get better economic solutions, they'll get leadership, someone that cares and get this country moving again. >> ann romney talking to gloria boerger. and we have her at the table tonight. it is fascinating to hear her say. david, are you particularly struck about what she said about mitt romney's father. >> yes, the fact that he writes dad on a card in front of him at every debate. one more example. we've had a series of presidential candidates whose father has been so compelling for them to run to office. we have george bush, al gore, mitt romney. >> with mitt romney, what's interesting, not so much fulfilling his father's dream, it's trying to be like his
father, because he really does idi had ideoli haidolize his father. in many ways he's like his father, but not like his father. not a back slapping guy. his father, a very different kind of politician. >> but, gloria he's a terribly decent man, and he has that card in front of him that says dad because he doesn't want to do anything that would demean the family name, but you don't want to go into a debate thinking about whatnot to do. you are in the arena fighting for your life. not only your life, but your country's life. >> that was one of the interesting things out. documentary you did before the convention, the lesson he took away from his father who said after making one statement about vietnam and the generals, really his campaign stumbled and mitt
romney took away lesson from that. >> and he may have overlearned the lesson. his father said he been brainwashed on vietnam and pretty soon his presidential campaign had disappeared in '68. so i think the lesson mitt romney learned from that is that a moment of candor can kill you, can hurt you. >> i think he overlearned that lesson. >> i think gloria is dead right. that card says caution. mitt romney is a cautious man. he made money at bain capital not by picking winners, but by not pick losers. >> i think there is something very sweet about it. i don't say it as watch out every step. >> i think we're overanalyzing mitt romney, frankly. first of all, i do think we're overanalyzing. i think he's demonstrated he's his own man. what i take from it based on a comment he actually made during
the convention, he thought of his father as always authentic and genuine and always okay with who he was, win, lose, or draw. if mitt romney pro jekts ney pr am authentic, doing this for the right reasons, i think that's persuasive. >> is the idea you have to project authenticity inauthentic in itself? >> i think president obama is gifted at projecting many emotions through the words he uses. what he has not been gifted at is delivering results. and what mitt romney has to do is present a contrast. and say words are great, but now let's talk about results, and i want to go back if i may for a minute to dan's comments four years ago. four years ago, president george
w. bush was in the office. four years ago, we were in the second quarter of a recession. we now know t.a.r.p. stabilized the financial markets. george w. bush took a lot of heat, but by the time president barack obama was inaugurated, the recession, we now know from the data was over. the worst was over before owe beca obama was in over. >> we're going to debate this? >> the problem for obama, things haven't gotten appreciably better since he was president. >> mitt romney tried to use the are you better off than you were four years ago -- >> she has to argue with the national bureau of economic researchers that saided the recession ended in june of '09. i don't want to get into that discussion. there are a lot of people that
run for president that don't have great relationships with their fathers. president obama, president clinton. i mean, it's good. i think as the father of two children, i think it's good and mitt romney's father was a very admirable man, but i don't know that we can read too much into it. >> we have to get a break in. it will be fascinating night. and not just during the debate. stick around after the debate as james carville pointed out, a lot of fact checking. we're getting ready. we'll hear from michelle obama. doesn't see eye to eye with ann romney about the rigors of campaigning, details on that ahead. ♪ ♪
the debate hall at the university of denver. debate night in america, anticipation building at the site of tonight's face-off. building also by the way here at the cnn election center. we'll hear shortly from the first lady of the united states, michelle obama. stand by for that. we're also not that far away from tonight's debate. take a look at the clock. you see what's going on. when president obama and governor romney appear on stage together, at the university of denver, jim lehrer of pbs will be the moderator for what could be potentially the most indepth and lively debates in memory. we'll zero in on domestic policy with a new format that allows for more interaction between the two candidates and more time to discuss a single topic. let's go back to the debate hall.
chief political correspondent candy crowley watching what's going on. you'll be the moderator in the next presidential debate. so you will watch this about as closely as anyone. >> absolutely, wolf. you know, this is, in fact, an arena that they use here at the university -- let me explain this picture this is president obama headed toward this debate site, we know that mitt romney is already here, and i -- obviously this is quite the happening, so you see a lot of folks out on the street. in fact, when we came in, people were hanging signs from the dorm rooms. this is an arena. i'm told it's used for ice hockey and sometimes basketball. tonight, it's pure politics. not a lot of big names or familiar faces, but i think nonpolitical junkies would recognize here tonight. but we've seen mike mccurry of the clinton administration, and frank farenkoff, head of the republican party during the
heydays of the reagan and george bush, the father, years, both on the debate commission with a lot invested here. alan simpson as well. lots of debate junkies, lots of real politicos here tonight and of course, all of those people watching tonight at home in the comfort of their living room couch. wolf, back to you. >> tens and tens of millions of people watching in the united states. and many millions more watching around the world. candy, thanks very much. specific rules for tonight's debate. some bigger rules come into play for the presidential election. let's go back to magic wall wit rules that may be broken. >> growing up as a kid in buffalo, some rules were made to be broken. true in politics as well. one rule, sorry, got the wrong one up. we'll make this work.
what's the close down, reset for me. we have to reset, let me toss it back to you. got it work right now. the october rule. the race can change directions in october. big first debate, can governor romney change the race? yes, he can. however, however, it doesn't always happen. most often about 80% of the time, the can daylight who leads at this point in the race, president obama, yes, a narrow lead, but even candidates with a very narrow lead at this point, 8 out of 10 elections, they tend to win. this rule might be broken. might be more of a myth than a rule. rule number two, if the president does win, he will break number two. the unemployment rate, since fdr no, president has won re-election with an unemployment rate above 7.2%, and it's still above 8% right now. the president has to break one those rules as we go forward. here is one my favorites. we used to say missouri is the show me state, even in presidential politics. since 1956, missouri always
picked the winner. only state you had to watch. watch missouri, you know who wins the election. let me shift walls. two magic walls. two is better than one. go back and look at the map from 1988, look at this. well, show me state went for john mccain, barack obama won the presidency this rule has been broken. we can forget about that. rule number four, one to watch. no republican has won the presidency since the days of abraham lincoln without winning ohio. let's go back to this map, we know this to be true. barack obama carried ohio last time. won the presidency. let me take this off. george w. bush in 2004 and 2000, won ohio. he must win ohio, mitt romney to win the presidency. and you might say ohio could be -- forgive me, missouri, the new show me state. since '64 the winner of ohio wins the white house. wolf. >> critically important, ohio,
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look at these front-row seats. this is the area where the first lady, michelle obama, will be sitting during tonight's debate. the president should be able to see her, by the way, in his line of sight, while he's at the podium. very interesting. this is a huge night for president barack obama and for the first lady, michelle obama not just because of the
presidential debate that begins very soon, the first lady talks about that in an exclusive interview with cnn. mrs. obama and her brother, craig robinson, sat down with our jessica yellin. >> how do you do? nice to see up. >> so nice to see you. >> we spoke to michelle obama and her brother craig shortly before the debate. it falls on an important day for the first couple. i wonder in your wildest dream, you ever imagined would y ed yo spending your 20th wedding anniversary on a double date with the romneys. >> no, i can't say this would have been the plan 20 years ago. and, in fact, i told barack, you know, attending a presidential debate on my 20th anniversary is probably the worst way for me to spend. i -- i get so nervous at these debates, and, you know, i'm like one of those parents watching their kid on the balance beam. you're just standing there, just
trying not to, you know, have any expression at all. so, no, i -- i would not have chosen this, but i'm excited about it, and i know he's going to do a great job. >> reporter: her brother, craig, a gramsman in the wedding. tell me about the wedding. was he nervous? >> no, i do remember that. he wasn't nervous. >> he had a bad cold. >> but we were joking around because he had a cold. and i remember thinking -- we were teasing him about, okay, whatever you do, don't sneeze while you are saying your vows, i remember we had a big laugh about that. >> he said all the congestion, he was really congested, when he got to the altar, it all cleared up, and for that moment we were at the altar, his nose was completely clear. >> my sister has that affect on
people. >> reporter: were you nervous? >> no, i wasn't. barack and i, we had dated a couple of years. i knew him, i usted him. it was the most natural next step in the world, and our families knew each other. i had spent christmases in hawaii meeting his family. so there wasn't -- you know, it was -- it was just sort of, okay, we're going to do this, get it done, and wel go on our honeymoon. i was really excited about the honeymoon actually. >> reporter: let me ask you about the debate a little bit. >> um-hum. >> reporter: i've read, before a speech, you to tell him have fun. a debate is a little different, more like a competition, a game of one-on-one. what's your emotional advice? >> he doesn't need much advice. he has been doing this quite some time. he knows the job, doing it quite some time. he's a good debater. i do tell him to have fun, be himself. the truth is, if he's the barack obama the country has come to know and trust, he's going to do
a great job. >> reporter: craig, you coach players for a living. you've played ball with the president. what should his opponent watch out for? >> at the debate? >> reporter: um-hum. >> make him go right. >> reporter: what's his strength? this is a person who has won a lot in his life. >> no, you're absolutely right. what i take from the president when i watch him debate is he's great at listening to what everyone is saying and quickly preparing a retort. i -- i enjoy watching that. and his retorts are always heartfelt, extremely thoughtful and quick, and that's what i enjoy watching when i watch the president debate. >>. >> reporter: some of his aides say one of his challenges to keep the answers short. and you critique his answers
afterward. >> no, i don't. i don't critique his speeches afterward. i give him my positive reinforcement. so -- >> reporter: only positive? >> generally, yeah. he's a great speaker. he's good at this. >> reporter: do you think he has any challenges going in? >> i haven't really -- i would have to think about that afterward, but going into it, i think he's going to do his best. >> reporter: she's gotten top reviews for her performance, especially at the democratic convention. and she rallies crowds in battleground states often enough to have her own stump speech. >> that's how barack and i and so many of you were raised. those are the values we were taught. we learned how hard you work matters more than how much you make we learned that the truth matters, you don't take short cuts or game the system or play by your own set of rules.
>> reporter: do you believe governor romney has a different set of values? >> i don't even begin to talk about our opponent's values. what i can tell you about my husband, he's been working to ensure that everyo american can have a real shot at the american dream. that people can have a job that pays a real wage, that people don't lose their homes because someone gets sick. you can send your kids to college maybe or maybe your kids can get a good job that pays good benefits. that folks can retire with dignity and security. i know that's the vision that my husband has for this country, you know, u.it's a vision we gr up with. my dad was that guy we were fighting for. my dad didn't have a college degree. but what he was able to do with his life, because he a solid job, he put two of us through princeton. barack wants to make sure
everyone in this country, no matter who you are, where you are from, what you look like, or as i say, who love, has the opportunity to gain some access to that american dream. >> reporter: ann romney recently said about the critics of her husband, to the critics of her husband, her husband's critics, that running for her president is hard. do you sympathize with that? >> the campaign experience is unique for everyone. you know, everyone comes to this and experiences it differently. for me, i really enjoyed campaigning. i think barack and i, we both get energy from it, because, you know, when you love in washington, sometimes you get isolated from the rest of the country, and this is a time when we get out and we can remember just how decent people are. i come across people, i don't care what -- what political party they come from. they are hopeful, happy to see you, willing to listen. and it's good to be reminded of that when you get out on the
campaign trail, so i get -- i get energy from it, and i always have, and i have always said that, that i -- it's, you know, i have never thought a few years ago i would enjoy it this much, i really do. and when i can hang out with my brother. he's a pretty good aet too out there. >> he certainly is. let's go to jessica joining us live from denver right now. excellent interview, jessica. thank you so much for doing it. i was intrigued. didn't want to criticize her husband, the president of the united states, at all. what do you make of that? >> the first lady, i noticed that too, wolf. it was very noticeable. she is very on message and it is part of the obama campaign's do no harm strategy at this point. i don't know any wives who have zero criticism of their husbands, but right now, it's clear that the first lady doesn't want to create any
hiccups in her husband's campaign, so even when i pressed her, what is his littlest weakness or challenge going into the debate, she wouldn't go there. so she only has positive feedback for her husband. she says now maybe after the election is over, she might have some little bit of critique she can offer. >> he doesn't hesitate to offer she happens to be his number one critic, but that's privately behind the scenes. i'm sure she have some good discussions on that note. jessica thanks so much. anderson, by the way, today is the 20th anniversary, you heard jessica report that, of the first family, first couple tonight. congratulations to both of them. what a way to celebrate their 20th. >> i want to bring in our political analysts and cnn contributors as well. do you think you'll be hearing from mitt romney, the idea of are you better off than you were four years ago? an idea they floated at the convention. it took time for the obama campaign to come up, and then
they fired back heavily at the democratic convention. >> if there is one question that obama is ready to answer, that's it. if there is one question that romney knows obama is ready to answer, that's it. rob portman has answered that question in spades. i suspect romney will say, let me tell you what president clinton said, governor romney. he made the point, boom, boom, boom, boom. and it will be the kind of end of that deal and we'll move on to the next question. that is one i'm confidence that they have practiced like ten times. >> and let's talk about joe biden, right? >> what? >> he can talk about what joe biden said, which was the middle class have been buried for the last four years. >> again, just on the specific question, were you period better off than four years ago, they have practiced that so many times, i know they are ready for that one. >> let's be clear. >> the next four years --
>> that's a different question, not the one i was asked. >> agree. >> each one will come with a set of statistics, but so much more important for someone to get up on the high road is and take what has been -- at a time a country faces serious questions, i'm in a camp of saying this is a serious election with a small bore campaign. campaign not talking about the big issues. the person who can get there tonight and talk in a compelling way about the future is the person who could well win this debate. >> can i share experience in debates like this? a danger for both candidates. these men have been in public life for a while. campaigning forever, and there is a tendency if you are the president of the united states, you want to defend your record. i did too do a good job. if you're mitt romney, you think a lot has been taken out of context. you want to explain that, and that is a trap that can sometimes prevent candidates from doing what i think david just said. what they need to do tonight. last four years? look, enough blame to go around,
but i've got something in this toolbox right here that will make it better. you may not even like me personally, but i can fix what's broken with this. >> this debate does focus on domeic policies, but we're hearing that jim lehrer may ask a question related to foreign policy, libya, syria. do you think -- is that something mitt romney wants to have that discussion now? do you think mitt romney feels there is some room there for him to make some -- >> hard to say what the campaign is thinking, but if you haven't made your case on the economy, sufficiently well, when the economy is in this terrible of shape, i would think distracting from that is probably not a good strategy. let's do too many things not well. i would stay focused on the economy tonight. >> i do think mitt romney can, and if given the chance, will, successfully prosecute the case that what we're seeing is a lack
of leadership domestically and in forbes polieign policy as we. we had big headlines, turkey shooting at syria, syria sending shells into turkey. that's big news. i wouldn't be surprised if jim lehrer throws a foreign policy question in. >> if i'm in obama, i would say throw me in the briar patch. that's a strong point for him. i think, unfortunately, the door is now open in a way on foreign policy that it wasn't before, because of the u.n. ambassador being killed. i think obama would love to go there. i think he's one of the best prepared people. >> i think the leadership question tonight, if it's -- on domestic policy, is going to be the deficit issue, the fiscal management of the country, and in talking to romney advisers, that's sort of the key thing they are going to point out in terms of leadership, talk about commander in chief at the next debate. but this debate is about fiscal management and who is going to
be better for me in the next four years. >> very quickly, david. >> first 45 minutes of this, the most important 45 minutes of the campaign, all about the economy. i've known jim lehrer for a long time. he won't be constricted by the -- he could well go into libya and what's been happening in the second part of the debate. >> not just the first 45 minutes are important, after the debate, our job, the fact checking, reality checking, wolf, a little bit on that. >> we certainly do, anderson. a very impressive reality check team to determine if the candidates are telling us the truth tonight. john berman is one of the team's leaders, joining us now. john, you have been fact checking candidates' recent claims on the campaign trail what are you seeing? >> we took a look at what candidates have been saying the last few days, to get a flavor of what things might look like in terms of the truth. tack cuts, who deserves them, who gets them? president obama claimed again that mitt romney is looking for
new tax breaks worth trillions of dollars for those meshes with the most money. >> they think that somehow you can lower our deficits by spending another $5 trillion on new tax breaks for the wealthy, no matter how many times they try to reboot the campaign when they try to explain it, they can't. >> $5 trillion. largely based on a study from the nonpaern tax policy center, they know mitt romney opposes cutting all tax rates by 20%. this could add up to $5 trillion, a big cut. but it doesn't take into account eliminating deductions and closing loopholes it would reduce tax cuts on the wealthy, but the problem is romney hasn't been specific about which reductions and how many? false on the claim. eliminating any tax cut would
make it less than 5 trillion, even if it's which deductions and which loopholes. you mitt romney likes to talk about the middle class squeeze. wages down and all kinds of prices are up. >> do you realize over the last four years, every year you have seen the median income in america come down. income is down some 4,300 a family. the middle class squeeze has been unbearable. gasoline prices way up. food prices up, electricity prices up. health insurance costs up. >> the facts in this, easy to fin. median income down over the last four years, but only about 2,500 since president obama took office and prices for all those items are up, though, food and electricity barely, so the verdict is true, but misleading. mitt romney inflated the number he used by adding in a year from
the bush administration. a lot of nuance we hope to lay out. >> during the 90-minute debate, you will be working with a great team. let's go back to the debate hall with candy crowley. >> we're hearing from various officials, a university official and then the first ladies will introduced. they are now in the hall. i want to go to senator kelly ann. called into duty. on a scale of one to ten, with ten now orrer in mi never mitt how important is this for the challengers. >> it's obviously an important night. but this doesn't make the whole election, a couple of debates, are you moderating one of them. this is a six or seven. it's important, but, you know, the american people will judge this presidency based on the record of where we are right now with the president's added $5.5
trillion to the debt. and those are the measures that when people get in the ballot box, where am i today? can i expect better in four more years? no. >> chris christie thinks we'll wake up thursday morning, thinking we really have a race going. do you think it will turn things around? this is janet brown introducing the first lady. [ applause ] very nice. actually, introducing ann romney who won a coin toss to be introduced first. first lady coming over to embrace ann romney before this.
so now we're looking forward to this debate coming up. chris christie said, listen, we think that tomorrow morning, thursday morning, this will be a whole different race. do you have that kind of hope for it? >> kahncan candy, when the prest is asked the hard questions and has to really tell the american people why we are where we are and what is his plan for the future, i think governor romney is a strong debater. it's important in the race, but it comes down to people will ask themselves what is the president's plan to make sure the next four years aren't like the last? we haven't heard any plan yet. >> kelly ayotte, thank you very much. we'll see you in the spin room. >> thanks. >> we want to check in quickly with jim acosta and jessica yellin. jessica, have y you have a gues you. >> i'm here with antonio
villaraigosa. i want to ask you -- mayor, thank you for being with us. you are a candid guy. what are president obama's weak spots tonight? >> i think everybody has pointed them out. he has to be more succeinct, no so professorial. i don't believe that faux pas here and there will do much to change people's positions about a candidate. but i think debates are important. that's why we're here. >> does he have to make a case to undecided voters that he is worth re-hiring? >> yes, i do. i think he'll make that case. he'll lay out we've had 30 straight months of growth in our economy. manufacturing jobs are back, and he'll say what we're going to do going into the future. >> but the point he has to make is he didn't understand what a hole we were in when he got into the job. does he understand what he has to do to get out of it? >> i don't any anybody understood we would have an
economy going into the free fall that it did. the worst economy since the depression. i think he will lay out that we made strides, we can do more. if you follow his path, that focus is on the economy from the middle out. we'll do a lot better in the next four years. >> mayor villaraigosa, thank you very much. candy, back to you. >> thanks, jessica we want to go on the other side of the spin room, where we find jim acosta, who also has a guest. hey, jim. >> candy, i'm joined by senior adviser kevin madden. mitt romney preparing for this debate off and on over the last month, since the republican convention. is he ready? >> i think he's very well prepared. if you look at governor romney's career, whether it's been as a governor, as head of the olympics or a business, he's always prepared. he sees this as an important opportunity to go out and really cut through a lot of clutter in the campaign, talk directly to
the public about the issues. he's prepared to do that. >> one of the topics that came up tonight in the news cycle, is what governor romney said to a local news station, how he would pay to the tax cuts and talked about limiting deductions to $17,000. and you could put whatever deduction you wanted into that $17,000. will we hear governor romney lay out more specifics? >> i expect differences on how the two candidates approach tax reform. actually, the president's lack of actual tax reform and governor romney's plan to reform the tax code. as we get into specifics, we'll see how he talks in specifics how he wants to lower rates, spur economic growth, and how we'll broaden the base. we'll get into those issues and a whole lot of others, he'll prepare for specifics. that's what voters want to know. what the future of the american economy would look like under
president romney. and he's prepared to do that. >> thank you very much. candy, we'll wait and see if we get specifics later on tonight during the debate. >> jim acosta, thanks. i'm joined by press secretary for the obama campaign, jen, i asked this of jessica yellin earlier, and i want to ask you. your candidate, steeped in policy for almost four years ago now, a very eloquent speaker, understand these issues. what the heck are you worried about tonight? >> look, all we're worried about is making sure the president speaks directly to the audience at home. his intended audience is not mitt romney, not even necessarily -- >> so we can ignore him? >> absolutely not. there will be a back and forth discussion. he wants to speak to those people on their ow couches at home who haven't tuned in. that's his goal tonight. >> how many times will we hear the words middle class? >> quite a few i'm betting. that is the president's focus. he wants the people at hometon
he's fighting for the middle class and that's what he will do with another four years. >> but we know that mitt romney and the debate moderator will want to have them mix it up and are you like, nope, look at the camera, have him talk straight to the people at home. >> the president doesn't think attack lines and all of the -- >> no, but discussion back and forth. >> sure, of course, there will be discussion back and forth, and the american people will see the choice they are facing in november. but the president is focused on the people sitting on couches at home. families who are watching and that's who he's specificing directly to. >> if you, in fact had a one thing that you were most hopeful for tomorrow morning, what is it? that the race is over? >> we know this race will be close until the bitter end, and we're running like we're five points behind in every swing state. we hope people wake up tomorrow and they say i know that guy is fighting for me. i want to give him a chance to go back for four years. i know he's done a lot but there
is more he can do. that's our goal. >> jen psaki, thank you. >> good to see you. >> anderson, back to you. >> five minutes away from the start of the debate. the most important night of this presidential race. let's bring in our analysts and correspondents. john king, as you wait the lastfy milast five minutes, what are you looking for? >> governor romney has to change the dynamic on one single question. which should voters trust swing voters in battleground. voters trust the most? right now they are tied. you can't convince people to change presidents if you are tied on the defining question. you have to beat him by several points. >> it's about undecided people. >> he has to convince the base he is a conservative, he will
cut taxes, conservative republican. guess what? that's not enough with the way -- especially in battleground states. in colorado tonight, that state will be decided if most latinos turn out and most evangelicals turn out. that will be decided by suburban women. more moderate than mitt romney. virginia now with the demographic changes not much better. what do people want? their legs are tired. four, five, six, tough years economically and they want somebody to tell them, the next four years will be better. if he can beat the president on that question, he can change the race tonight. >> we'll hear about the middle class. if there is a drinking game, that is the phrase to look for to drink the most. gloria was saying that joe biden's phrase will be used perhaps by governor romney. will that be effective? >> i would say this is about vice president biden. when he is himself he's more
relatable, and more empathetiem. than romney is on purpose. the reason why he can make mistakes and still beloved, he's authentic. the most authentic person on the state has a big advantage. >> i think john's argument is exactly right. romney has to shake up this race, but the first few minutes, i will look who is more relaxed, who is looser? who connects more? style matters. >> everybody says president obama is an experienced debater. he has not debated since 2008, whereas romney has. >> he has been on a different kind of stage. and i think what mitt romney has to do tonight, to convince people that as ann romney was taking before, and by the way, she makes the case for mitt romney sometimes better than mitt romney does himself. she was saying he has been preparing his whole life to fix the economy, and that he can fix it, and they have to -- john,
the word was trust. they have to trust him to make their lives better. >> do these guys get nervous? i mean, i know they are exhilarated. >> you know when you are moderating the debates yourself, when they are lined up, they are all different. some make a last-minute bathroom break, some are fixing their ties, some want to be alone, and some want everyone with them. >> a really good speaker has to have butterflies. >> it helps you rise to the moment. >> when you think of the job these guys are competing for what is the job? >> pressure job. >> think about the great american presidents. ask the american people who will give the same answers, fdr, kennedy, reagan and clinton. and why? the new deal, new frontier, don't stop thinking about tomorrow. you know -- >> love doing that bill clinton imitation. >> it's the same guy. why? the president's job is to take you to what's next. to the new -- to that promised
land. the president's job is to be moses in many ways. >> people are watching this, one guy is the president of the united states of america. the other guy wants to be president. he is supposed to be competent, supposed to be able to answer questions. they don't care if you haven't debated in four years, they don't care if you are tired, they don't care if it's hard. they really don't. it's a big job, it's a hard campaign, knew that before you got into it if you have had the job for four years, defend yourself. if you want the job, who cares? it's a big stage out there, tough, nervous, got butterflies, everything else, a lot riding on it. too bad. the presidency of the united states. huge job. get after it, guys. >> with all duerespect to alex, i don't think people are looking for moses. people are a lot smarter than that, and frankly more cynical and a little more tired than that. having debated a few times, i would say that the c